More than 40 ice-cream trucks were seized by the city in Long Island City Wednesday over a multimillion-dollar ticket-avoidance scam.
The trucks, most of which brandish the New York Ice Cream logo, racked up thousands of dollars each in unpaid citations over several years — but rather than pay, the owners just dissolved the companies they were registered to and opened new ones in a shell game, a civil court complaint alleges.
Ice cream mogul Dimitrios Tsirkos — who founded New York Ice Cream, which has been locked in a bitter turf war with Mister Softee — was named in the complaint, along with five others.
Sheriffs say Tsirkos and the others actually own a total of about 76 delinquent treat-mobiles that owe a combined $4.5 million for offenses including speeding, running red lights and illegally using bus lanes.
But officials started Wednesday by seizing the 46 worst offending trucks, which all owe at least $10,000 a piece.
The complaint — which also names Athanasios Fotinakopoulos, Hele “Eleni” Fotinakopoulos, Tommy Dalageorgos, Michael A. Vasiadis and Antonio Tsatsaros as company honchos — lists nearly 100 phony companies.
The vehicles are being held in Sheriff’s Office custody while the city continues to build its case, law enforcement sources said.
The owners could get them if they pony up the outstanding fines plus potential fees and damages, a spokesman for the city’s Finance Department said.
But officials wouldn’t say if they will also face criminal prosecution.
“The civil component is complete and there are other components that the Sheriff’s Office will continue to investigate,” a source told The Post.
It’s not the first time Tsirkos has been implicated in shady ice-cream dealings.
Mister Softee sued Tsirkos, a former franchisee, in 2014 for copyright infringement after he started a breakaway company called “Master Softee” with the same branding — and the two settled out of court.
A Mister Softee boss acknowledged the hit to New York Ice Cream spells a boon for his own company.
“I never want to be in a position where I’m excited about someone else misfortune but they were doing the wrong things here and operating in the wrong way — but yes it kinda presents a unique opportunity,” Mister Softee vice-president Jim Conway told The Post Wednesday.
But New York Ice Cream drivers weren’t so thrilled.
“Yeah, they will be happy but I’m not happy about that,” groused one frustrated after he watched his meal-ticket get hauled off by sheriffs.
The worker claimed their bosses had told drivers they were paying the tickets — and then garnished wages of the drivers who incurred them.
Now dozens of drivers are left in the lurch just as the summer season is about to get into full swing.
“This is not good. I’m trying to make some money. I got a family, I have to support them,” said a driver of four years.
“I’m just angry because I’m not going to have a good summer. I work seven days a week for three months (in the summer). In the winter I’m going back to college … Now all my plans have changed.”
Additional reporting by Angel Torres